Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Racing - July 10, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

After the races over the weekend I felt a spark of hope for Tuesday's race at the Rent. First off the weather had initially threatened, but as the forecast evolved the chances of rain dropped to next to nil. Second, with my heart rate revving nicely Sunday, it meant I could ask my body to actually work a bit. I hoped that Tuesday ended up the same.

With the previous Rent race shelling me after a little less than 10 minutes at 235 watts, I needed a race that wasn't quite so aggressive. For me that means a break goes right away, with all the main protagonists, and the field eases. Tuesdays don't work well for me due to the course and smaller field sizes - when 100 racers start off and chase each other ferociously it's much easier than when the group numbers 30.

I remembered the big camera this time, and since the Bs were out there, and the Expo riders seemed to be enjoying themselves, I decided to take pictures. I took them until handing off the camera to Amanda (who later handed off to Heavy D). Heavy D, in what I think is his third race ever, won (for a third time). Although two took place here at the Rent, one was at the New Britain Crit so that was a "real" race.

All the picture taking meant I didn't start pedaling the bike until after the Bs finished, and I think I just rode from our vantage spot (the Missus, Junior, and a few other various Missus's and Juniors were there) to the start line. With such an extensive warmup I decided to sit in and hope for that break to go soon.

Of course, with a Tuesday Night Worlds, the attacks went from the gun. I hadn't finished putting my gloves on so I struggled with that as we got under way.

First lap.
The lead rider is in front of the barn red shed thing towards the left.
I just finished getting my right glove on.

The group immediately fragmented up front, with two groups escaping and eventually merging. I saw three teammates up there so I relaxed mentally.

Behind the break the field strung out as riders tried to close the tantalizingly small gap. Although we weren't going quite as fast as a couple weeks ago, it felt immensely easier. The numbers bear this out - at the 5 minute mark I was at just 209 watts, about my FTP, whereas two weeks ago I was at 235 watts, a somewhat sustainable but tiring level for me (I got dropped at about 8 or 9 minutes).

By 10 minutes this night the speed was higher, my wattage was still down, by about 20 watts (178w today versus 199w two weeks ago), and I felt totally normal. That doesn't mean "good", although if someone asked me if I felt good I'd have said yes. "Normal" means I was suffering but I could make efforts out of the corners and I could close the small gaps that inevitably open up.

("Great" is when I feel unstoppable, surf the front of the race the whole time, and feel invincible. It almost never happens.)

I don't know if the wheels helped, but when splitting wattages like this it seems that the Stingers helped with the repeated accelerations out of the corners. I rarely had to get out of the saddle (if I did it was to stretch) and it took just a couple downstrokes to accelerate to speed. For the last two Rents I used the Bastognes (basically the Ardennes LT wheels from HED) and I couldn't finish the races.

Coincidence? Probably. Whatever.

Of course the fact that I have some more training in the last two weeks (a couple races and some training rides) may have helped a bunch too. Although I'm not anywhere near my 2010 weight I still managed to reverse the direction of my weight trend, thanks to the help of the Missus. This will make more of a difference than anything else.

Nothing unusual happened during the race, at least not for me. I wanted to maximize my time at speed, i.e. in the race, so I tried to simply stay out of trouble. I wanted to get 40 minutes in and work hard after I had some fatigue. Working really hard in the first few minutes then getting shelled doesn't accomplish that.

Therefore in the race I tried to stay in it. If I felt like I had poor position in the group I moved up, but otherwise I just looked across the 10-20 second gap to the big break off the front.

I briefly contemplated trying to bridge to the break when their lead dropped inside of 10 seconds. I mulled it over for a lap or two. I had three teammates in the break, at least one told me earlier that his goal was to be in whatever break, and I didn't want to ruin what was turning out to be a great race for him. He was a newly minted 4, won the first Cat 4 race he entered, and he can handle himself in a field.

I also didn't want to launch a huge move to bring back a break that would have gotten caught anyway. I'd be trying to recover just as the counters started going. I decided that the best plan would be to go if the field sat up or if the break started to gain time again.

The next time I glanced across the gap it had grown well past 15 seconds. Oops. Since I can only bridge about 10 seconds effectively, I realized I'd mulled away my chances to bridge. Hindsight, right?

The break had splintered apart, shedding off the tired racers unable to go with the moves. Suddenly just Will was up front (but I didn't know this - I thought Will, SOC, and one more teammate were still up the road).

At some point my teammate Joel told me he was starting to cramp. I know all about cramping so I gave him an ice cold Podium Ice bottle, still full of ice and water, and told him to spray his legs down. After the race he said it'd helped. I had a second bottle left for myself so it was all good (the car thermometer read 89 degrees on the way over, so for me it was pretty warm).

One of the CCNS guys lapped us solo (and he'd lap us again apparently). Everyone sat on his wheel until he launched another attack, shedding the field a second time.

Suddenly a bunch of CCNS teammates swarmed past me. The rest of the break had lapped the field. SOC showed up, one or two others, but I didn't know the exact composition of the break.

The CCNS boys quickly went off the front again, dragging a couple other guys - five riders went up the road.

I asked SOC if he'd lapped us, and he answered he'd been lapped. I misunderstood and thought he had lapped us, which put him in the lead group. At least a couple guys had just gone up the road so I told the other Expo guys around me that we needed to help out SOC and chase everything down.

I took the lead by going up to and past the front, trying to rile things up, trying to encourage a chase. I went a bit too hard - when I went to shift I realized I'd made the move in the 11T and I had no gears left. My strength left me quickly as I'd pushed quite hard to go - it wasn't a sprint per se as I didn't even break 950 watts but I pushed much harder than I expected - I pulled at over 30 mph for a minute.

When my legs started to falter I eased off, letting the next guy through.

"You're too low for me, I couldn't draft you!" the next rider yelled as he pulled through.

I drifted to the back of the group, intending really to sit up and stop. Heavy D screamed at me to keep going. This got me going again but I was still a short gap off the back, maybe a couple bike lengths. Suddenly a host rider (meaning a CVC rider) actually eased at the back, let me get his wheel, and kept checking to make sure I was on. He shepherded me for a lap or so until I could stand on my own.

Last lap.
The field is totally strung out. I'm just sitting up - it's about 200m to go for me, 100m for the leaders.

I sat up at the bell, meaning to stop again, but Heavy D insisted on encouraging me. I closed the gap I'd let go, rode around to the last turn, and sat up for good. I wasn't going to sprint - I didn't want to contest it if there were a bunch of riders a lap up. Plus I knew I could give up somewhere away from Heavy D and not get yelled at to keep going. Heh.

Ends up Will made the final selection - only three guys (other than the double lapper solo one) stayed off the front of the group, and he was in the thick of the action. I figure we'll see him in the 3s soon enough and probably the 2s shortly after. No pressure of course.

Me, I know my place.

I felt much better about the race in general because I felt pretty comfortable. I wasn't coasting along but I could make efforts when I needed to and I never irrevocably exploded.

When I rolled back to the car the Missus had just finished changing Junior. I stopped to look at him laying there, happily kicking his legs and waving his arms. He's a happy guy anyway but it's always nice to see him when he's so cheerful. When he saw me he stopped, looked at me intently, and a smile spread across his face.

I smiled back.

It's hard to get too worked up (or happy) about how a race went when really the most important thing is the little guy smiling back at you. Racing racing yada yada. I don't get anxious to train, I can even do without a race or two, but it's hard to fight the urge to hold and cuddle Junior.

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